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Dante: "Inferno", Translated by David Bruce Gain

Dante: "Inferno", Translated by David Bruce Gain

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Published by David Bruce Gain
A translation of Dante's Inferno into heroic verse by David Bruce Gain
A translation of Dante's Inferno into heroic verse by David Bruce Gain

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Published by: David Bruce Gain on Feb 28, 2010
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05/25/2013

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Dante: "Inferno", translated by David Bruce GainCanto 1At our midlife my wandering way lacked light;A dark dark wood mersed me in nullest night.How hard to limn this wood so wild and sere.The very thought fills me with frantic fear.Yet it held good, so while I still have breathI'll tell of all, though telling's worse than death.I know not what it was that caused to stray,So tired was I when wandering from the way.Yet at a hill I found at last reliefFrom that drear vale that pierced with griping grief.When I looked up I knew that I had wonFrom it a sight of the straight-guiding sun.And my heart's lake was freed from frantic frightFrom those long hours of that so piteous night.As one, still spent, yet now safe on the shore,Looks on the waves that he need fear no more,So did my soul, the soul of one who'd fled,Gaze on the pass that held none but the dead.Rested, my firm foot lower gave some hopeI might not stumble on this lonely slope,Foiled by a pantheress, all set to seize,For sure, swift one, one slow as I, with ease.I oft turned back, full sure that I was blocked.My eyes and her eyes, spotted one, were locked.'twas dawn, and spring, when the beings above,The sun and stars, were first fired by God's love.So I had hopes 'twould surely be my lot,My spotted one, that I would be forgot.A lion came, th' air and I were filled with dreadAt ravening hunger in his high-held head.A lean she-wolf also, whose gluttonous greedFull oft ere now had caused wan wights to bleed.My heart was heavy; her so savage sightReft me of hope I could e'er gain the height.One who is sure that he right now prevailsIs sick and sore and saddened when he fails.So was I saddened, forced back by the bruteRight to the region where the sun is mute.I felt, while forced back, desperate, down the slope,One seeming faint-voiced, long mute, give me hope."Are you Shadow or does your form conceal"I cried to him for pity, "One who's real?""Not now, once real" he cried, "Lombardian earthMade me and my folks Mantuan by birth.I was born, though late, ere Julius diedAnd, came to Rome, my own home left, t' abideNear good Augustus, under gods who lied.I praised, a bard, Anchises' loyal son,Who came from Troy when it had been undone.Climb climb the mount that gives us all our joy.Why why turn back to what can but destroy?"Abashed, I cried: "O Virgil, from whose storeSuch copious streams of living water pour!Let me, loving and taught by you, prevail.
 
O greatest bard, your words shall never fail!You are my master, you save me from shame.Your style is my style, source of all my fame!Great sage, turn back the beast, save me, I quakeFrom pulsing pain that only you can slake".I sobbed. "This place" he cried, "shall never save.If you stay here you'll e'er be but a slave.This beast, which makes you scream, lets none go by,But hinders all and causes all to die.The more the monster eats, the more her need;Food makes her famished; naught can glut her greed,Till dog that makes her die, desperate, arrives,Many shall be the beasts with whom she wives.'twixt Feltro and Feltro shall be his birth,Love, wisdom, nerve, not land and wealth, his worth.Euryalus, Nisus, Turnus all laved,Camilla too, the land with blood; all cravedWhat he at last shall win - Italy saved.From stead to stead he'll hunt the hater well,Till he at last has hounded her to hell.Therefore I deem this fittest: 'tis decreedFor you to follow and for me to lead,To hear the shrieks of those who e'er abideIn pain and torment where all hope has died.Then shall you see those fire shall leave unstressed,Since they have hope they'll soon be with the blest.To whom if you hereafter would ascend,I'll leave you then; you'll find a fitter friend,Since he who holds the heavens in his swayWon't admit me, who once durst disobey.He's lord of all, yet blest the one who's broughtTo that high place, to the high king's own court".Then I: "Bard, by the God whom you know not,Save me, I beg, from this so sordid lot,That I may see (you said) Saint Peter's doorAnd those you said were of a soul so sore".I kept behind, while he moved on before.Canto 2Day was departing and the air, like soil,Taking all living on the earth from toil,Save me. Unerring memory shall portrayHow I was readied for the woeful way,Like one well armed and fitted for the fray.O mind-inspiring Muses, noble breed,Sole scribes of what I saw, help now my need.Then I began: "O bard, you are my guide.Trust you my strength when it is still untried?You say Silvius' sire, a son of earth,Mingled with those of an immortal birth.The foe of ill, knowing his destined seed,Was ever helpful in his every need.This seems but fair since, in th' Empyrean fire,He was made nurturing Rome's great empire's sire.And it is Rome where, by divine decree,Great Peter's heirs have their most holy see.It was his journey, which your words made known,That gave him victory and the pope his throne.'twas Rome too was the chosen vessel's goal,
 
To strengthen Trust that starts to save the soul.But I, why may I come? Heeding whose call?I know I'm neither Aeneas nor Paul.I yield to you, more skilled than I to school.Heeding myself, I'd only heed a fool".How oft we mortals rue our former view!How oft the old surrenders to the new!The journey that was so longed for before,On that dark hill appealed to me no more.I heard the Shadow of the great sage speak:"If I hear right you, once so strong, are weak.Like beasts that shy at shadows in their sight,A coward's clogged and flees his quest from fright.Relating what I've heard will bring relief,By freeing from the fear that gluts your grief.I begged a beauteous lady to prevail,Since I had seen my feeble efforts fail.So soft and sweetly to me she begun,Her voice an angel's and her eyes the sun:'When other poets' paltry praise has passed,Your fame, Mantuan, shall for ever last!To my, not fortune's friend, defeat is near;On this lone hill he falters, filled with fear.From what I've heard in heaven of his fateI fear my aid will all be far too late.With your sweet speech succour him, take control;Assist him now and soothe my saddened soul.I'm Beatrice; I'd fain go back above;What moves me so to speak to you is love.When once again I stand before my Lord,Full oft shall paeans of praise of you be poured'.So she, then I: 'O Lady, 'tis your boonThat we excel all circled by the moon.Your dear dictates shall straightway be obeyed;Already done were far too far delayed;But say why you'll descend here from above,And seek the centre, when heaven is your love'.'Though I'll be brief' she said, ''twill not appalTo tell why I've come here, since you'd know all.The safe should ever leave us cool and calm;We never need fear aught but what can harm.God's grace has ever schooled me O so wellI feel no pity for the souls in hell.Heaven has a noble Lady who would freeThe one I send you from God's stern decree'.She called Lucia: 'Rightly you recoilFrom thought of failing one who is so loyal'.I sat with old Rachel. Lucia's rule:Help all the helpless and counter the cruel.He said: 'Help him; he left the common crew,Beatrice whom God praises, just for you.You know not, deaf to his poor panting breath,The stream the sea wins not threats him with death.Surpassing all who court their own soul's calmOr seek their own security from harm,I came from my blest seat, your words so stirred,Which honour you and all those who have heard'.She turned her eyes away, all filled with dew.How eager was I then to come to you!And I have come to you as was her will

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